A blog about movies and filmmaking.

What Are You, A Little Girl? | DUE DATE

In comedy on November 3, 2010 at 1:53 am

DUE DATE, the newest movie from Todd Phillips – the guy that brought us THE HANGOVER, one of my favorite comedies of the past few years – tries to distance itself from the progenitors that it closest resembles. But the problem is, Due Date is nothing if not a modern remake of PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES. I mean there’s no other way around it – sorry guys. Fortunately, it’s not a bad thing. The movie is funny, and fun, and is a really good time at the cinema.

Is it as good as The Hangover, or Phillips’ other road movie, ROAD TRIP (my second favorite)? Not quite – though the performances here probably far outshine any in those other movies. But really the main drawback to the movie is the filmmakers’ emphatic saying that it’s not like Planes, Trains & Automobiles; which made me feel conflicted while watching because they line up really well. They really should have embraced it, and told people, “yes, it’s just like that movie!” Though, I guess then part of it is that they’ll need to pay some royalties to the original movie’s creators. 

Anyway, the story is about Peter Highman (Robert Downey, Jr.), whose wife is about to have their first baby. The movie opens with him telling a story about a dream he had where a bear delivers his baby, and we see that he’s actually talking to her via a bluetooth device in his ear. Peter’s an architect, in Atlanta, on his way home to Los Angeles. When he gets to the airport, he literally crashes (well, is crashed) into Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) – who also winds up being on the same plane. Then through a misunderstanding and a rubber bullet-happy Air Marshall, they both wind up on a no-fly list and have to set out via rental car. Well, them and Ethan’s French Bulldog, Sonny.

Naturally, disaster ensues.

Through their journey, all of the great tropes happen – they lose all their money; their car gets totaled; they get into a couple of life-or-death altercations, with each other; and of course by the end the harder-edged fellow softens and the bumbling fool…well, doesn’t change too much. We’ve just grown to love him for all his eccentricities. There’s also a fun cast of supporting characters that show up to either help or stand in the way of our heroes. They’re all fun and I’ll let you discover who they are  and what they do to our heroes – as seeing who’ll pop up is part of the enjoyment of these things. Then there’s the antics and action set pieces.

I’ll admit, at the beginning of the movie, when Ethan’s ride crashes into Peter’s Town Car, I jumped. It was so unexpected – it really reminded me of a moment in HEREAFTER, where my entire theater jumped; though in this case, I might have been the only one – and just startled me. And what an entrance into the movie it was for Galifianakis. He plays clueless and aloof like nobodies business.

Which brings me to the acting. A couple years ago Downey Jr. – as I like to call him – was nominated for an Oscar; for a role in which he was playing a role of an actor who dyed himself black, for a role. Naturally, he didn’t win; but it was a gutsy move by the Academy to put him up for that role, and I think that the same thing might happen this year. He’s such a loose-cannon in this movie; violently explosive in a number of scenes, and then tender and sad in others; that I honestly think he might gain another nod for this role. I’m more than willing to be the only one out on that limb. But, he’s amazing here – as he’s been in every role he’s been in since his major comeback in the IRON MAN franchise. With his playing the straight man, only made that much more understandable, because of his tormentor. Seriously, Downey does some seriously heinous stuff in this movie, and not all of it to Galifianakis, but we’re never really taken out of his corner; because we understand what he’s going through. Which is the power of the role.

But, Galifianakis, steals the movie. No, he’s not really that different from The Hangover – or any of his other roles – but his schtick (whatever it is) is pure genius. There’s a scene where Peter is berating Ethan and asks him how he never managed to get run over by a car; to which Ethan responds, “that did happen.” Or there’s the disturbing moment – well let’s just say he has a certain ritual before he can go to sleep. And as imbecilic as Ethan might get; we also never really grow to hate him, because he is so sad and child-like. But, then there’s the flip-side; and Galifianakis also manages to put in a couple of pretty powerful scenes as well. We see a side of his acting talent that I don’t know we’ve seen before. And he pulls it off, it’s touching; and we feel bad because of the actions that had been taking place right before it. Of course, he returns to being a moron a couple minutes later. But kudos to him for showing he’s more than just awkwardness and stupidity.

With a fun – and tried and true – premise, DUE DATE is full of laughs, scares and maybe even some tears. It’s a great entry into everyone involved’s career, and the only sad thing is it’s insistence on trying to prove that it’s not part of what’s come before. If you go in thinking that this is an update on the classic road/buddy movie; I think you’ll have a blast. There’s some gross-out humor; some high-minded, emotional drama; and even a drug-induced hallucination sequence. It’s the best movie this year that mentions the TV show Two And A Half Men, and definitely worth checking out.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Muth, John Muth. John Muth said: "What are you, a little girl?" My review of the funny DUE DATE: http://wp.me/ps9nC-cU (AKA Planes, Trains & Automobiles 2010) […]

  2. I agree with you. But it seems this film is taking a verbal beating from critics. I wonder what for?

    And that scene with the drug hallocination is a complete homage to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I can’t imagine anyone denying that.

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